Lightning

On Sunday, I wrote about a few minutes coming down off Fan Fawr when I thought there might be a thunder storm. I can think of nothing else that frightens me as much as being caught out on the hills in a thunder storm.

Fast forward to today. I finished work at 11, picked Rufus up shortly afterwards and at just after midday, we set off from the car to climb up to Llyn y Fan Fawr. The mountains looked lovely in the sun, with a sprinkling of snow on them. It was soggy underfoot but this route usually is, and my boots are waterproof.

Not long after we started, a light sleety snow started to fall, and it turned into hails stones. But it was a light shower. All morning I’d watched short, sharp showers pass over. Rarely did they last more than 10 minutes. The clouds ahead were nothing more than another shower. As we started to climb, the hail got heavier and the wind picked up. I knelt down and for a few minutes, sheltered Rufus from the worst of the hail. There was tail wagging and I got a lot of kisses – I think Rufus likes my beard, which I’ve left grow a bit recently.

The hail got a lot lighter and we set off again. A little way up the hill, the wind picked up and once again the hail started. And then there was an ominous rumbling. I knew straight away what it was, and I was frightened. Thunder coming from the clouds directly ahead.

I immediately turned around. There was no thought of sheltering. I made sure I could see Rufus and we started back down the path.  It had taken us about 30 minutes to get here. The thought of walking back with the risk of lightning for 30 minutes was rather unpleasant. So I began to jog. I was conscious of the risk to my knee but that was secondary. I kept talking to Rufus as he’s not happy with thunder and there were several claps going off. He seemed okay, treating the jogging as a game and criss-crossing in front of me. But he stayed close, which is not his preferred way when he’s out. It was clear he was aware something was up.

I took the direct route back towards the car. That meant missing out the detour to cross the river and I found myself on the wrong side of it. But the ground underfoot was a little flatter so we made good progress. And then I saw the first lightning bolt. It was over to the right, and I saw it out of the corner of my eye. Almost immediately there was a loud clap of thunder. I checked on Rufus, who was hesitating a bit, and I kept talking to him in what I felt was a normal tone of voice, although I was beginning to feel quite scared.

We got to the point where we had to cross the river. Without any hesitation, I waded through the shallows, the water slopping over my boots. Rufus was over quickly and we were about a minute from the car. Then I saw the second lightning bolt, directly overhead. Once again, fortunately, it didn’t touch the ground.The thunder broke at the same time as the lightning.  A little bit of my mind was wondering if a bolt struck the ground, how far away it would have to be so that we wouldn’t be affected. All around me was bog, waterlogged grass and river. I decided to concentrate on getting to the car.

The last few hundred metres was covered in a dash. Rufus was still by my side and he leapt into the car as I opened the door for him. I made sure he was in and shut the door, then climbed in to the passenger seat and closed that door.

Another flash and thunderclap happened at the same time, but I felt so much safer in the car. Rufus was standing, staring at me and I was trying to get my breath back. I gave him a lot of fussing but he was clearly wound up with the excitement of it all. A treat helped. The wind buffeted the car and blew snow up against the windows. In the time it had taken us to get back, I hadn’t noticed the hail turn to snow.

It took me five minutes to stop panting (I’m no runner) and by the time I’d calmed down, Rufus was lying on the back seat, watching me. Several more claps of thunder sounded while we were there but I saw no more lightning. Checking the GPS tracker, I saw that the 30 minute journey up had taken just over 16 minutes to cover on the way down.

The road was white with snow or hail, and I took it slowly at first as I drove down and away from the mountains,. The wind blew snow directly into the windscreen and the visibility wasn’t the best. After a few minutes of careful driving, we reached the main road. And a few minutes after that, the sun was shining and there was blue sky! As had recovered, and both of us had been robbed of a decent walk, I decided to stop on the way back so that we could walk a bit further. Careful to check the clouds,  we walked along side the River Tawe near Ystalafera. Compared to our ordeal, it was pleasant walking.

I’ve been in a white out on Ben Nevis, I’ve taken the wrong path on Blencathra and ended up clinging to the side of a vertical drop several hundred feet high, and I’ve walked along Crib Goch in a gusty breeze. But today was the most scared I’ve ever been on the hills.

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Fan Brecheiniog, Fan Hir and Moel Feity

It was cold last night and so in the early hours I found myself sharing the bed with a larger-than-normal Cocker Spaniel. As a result, I was allowed a lie in until 6.30 before the call of the wild garden became too much for him and we had to go on patrol. Borders cleared, breakfast was served and then we set off for the mountains.

I was keen to push a little today and at the same time conscious that Rufus is not the young hound he once was. So I decided on the now familiar route up and down Moel Feity, on to Llyn y Fan Fawr and then up on the Fan Brecheiniog, with the option that if we were both feeling okay, we’d head back to Bwlch Giedd and then along Fan Hir for a while. This would add the all important time and extra ascent but we could turn back at any time should the need arise.

It was another golden morning but a cold wind from the East chilled the air and meant the gloves went on early. We skirted the horses once again and then struck off almost directly up the side of Moel Feity. By the time we’d reached the top, the sun had warmed us up and the breeze had disappeared. We climbed a little further than last time and when we started to drop into the valley between Feity and Brecheiniog, it was steeper than usual. Rufus determined the path as we descended and we wandered about at the whim of scents and aromas like a summer butterfly.

We found ourselves to the north of our normal path but all of this was good for the training and I heard no complaints from Rufus. We climbed over rough ground full of little ankle-turning ruts and pits and it was hard going as we climbed steadily towards the lake. In just under 70 minutes, we reached the lake shore and took our first break. In the distance through the still air I could hear two walkers chatting as they made their way up the path to the Bwlch as we would be shortly. Rufus’ barks as I threw stones for him to dredge and catch echoed around the lake.

We followed the lake shore south until we reached the path up the side of Fan Brecheiniog. It’s a short climb but steep and hard going. National Trust volunteers have constructed steps out of large stones and these do a lot to manage erosion but they can become slippery when they are wet or, like last week, frosty. They force walkers to take larger steps than perhaps they otherwise would too. You climb from the lake at 608m to the Bwlch around 100m higher in a little over 400m of walking. It looks hard and it is, but it’s over quickly. But then there’s another 80m climb ahead. Once that’s over, it’s a lovely airy walk along the edge of the mountain. It’s the 36th time I’ve climbed this mountain and I still love it as if it was the first time.

After we’d walked to the north end of the ridge we turned around and walked half way along the southern bit, Fan Hir. It has an even steeper drop to the moorland below and you get a fantastic feeling of being up in the clouds. Except today there were no clouds.

We made our way down to the lake where stones were thrown in the now traditional ‘throw stones for me or I’ll bark like the Hound of the Baskerville’ session. The walk back down to the car from the lake is rough and this bit of this route I don’t look forward to. It’s wet, riddled with pools and marsh, and crossed by numerous little streams and rivulets which just hinder progress.

Back at the car I was disappointed to find that we had only added an extra 12 minutes to last week’s four hours, despite adding just over 2km to the distance and 100m to the ascent. When I checked on the app that records my routes, it turns out that my average pace was considerably faster. I’ve always had problems pacing.

The sofa and the fire were most welcome when we got home.

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Cold and frosty morning

“Snuffle snuffle”

“It’s only 5.30, Rufus. At least another half hour.”

“Snuffle, snuffle”

“Just five more minutes, please?”

“Snuffle snuffle”

“I’m getting up, honest. It’s just taking a while.”

We were in the garden, checking out the activities of the fox at 6.15. At 6.30 we were breakfasting on toast and coffee. At 7, we were heading off for the hills.

I decided I wanted to try the same route as two weeks ago. It gave a decent ascent (521m) without being too strenuous on the knee. I’m building it’s strength back up slowly so it would be silly to try something too much too soon. We set off from the car at just after 8 heading towards Moel Feity before dropping down into a shallow valley and climbing back up to Llyn y Fan Fawr and then on to Fan Brecheiniog.

The weather was gorgeous, cold and clear. The sun was still golden, turning everything it touched a deep orange colour  A thick frost coated the grass and most of the bog and marsh we encountered last time was frozen solid. We skirted the horses on the lower slopes of Moel Feity before turning north and heading up the flank towards the bomber crash site. I wanted to see if my little cross was still there. It was.

The view from Moel Feity was crisp and clear. Clouds were beginning to form a white woolly cap on Pen y Fan to the East and the moon was still shining above Fan Brecheiniog. With a brief stop for a treat and a drink, we set off towards the lake, hidden by low hills at this point. There are few paths and I always make my own way, avoiding the obviously tricky drops and boggy patches. I didn’t have to worry about the water and mud today, but there were enough little dips to keep me concentrating. Rufus tracked me some 50m to the north; he had his own agenda and there were plenty of scents that had to be investigated that didn’t require my presence. Every now and then he would check to see if I was okay.

In no time we reached the shore of Llyn y Fan Fawr. It was calm and the sun reflecting off it was dazzling. There was a lot of heat from the sun and the reflection too, so we stopped for a few minutes for me to catch my breath and for Rufus to catch some stones. Then it was off around the top of the lake and onto the path the climbs steeply to Bwlch Giedd. The path was shaded from the sun, and there was a thick frost on the stones making them treacherous. Even Rufus, with four paw drive, slipped on a couple. I kept an eye on him as we climbed higher but he quickly got the hang of it and, as usual, was waiting patiently for me as I huffed and puffed my way to the top.

I’ve said it before but the ridge to Fan Brecheiniog is one of my favourite places to walk. There’s a combination of solitude, space and achievement there that I rarely feel elsewhere. As we walked along the ridge this morning, I felt it again and it was magnified by the beautiful weather. I met several people on the mountain and we all mentioned how fantastic the conditions were at some point. Rufus and I went on to Tro’r Fan Foel, the ancient and eroded burial cairn on the tip of the mountain that overlooks land that was once inhabited long ago. Then it was time to turn back.

The journey down was uneventful. A thin mist was forming on Fan Brecheiniog, just as it had done on Pen y Fan. Moisture in the wind blowing up the side of the mountain was condensing at the top and blowing across the gently sloping west side. It didn’t affect the walk and wasn’t wetting, but it did spoil the views to the west. By the time we got down to the lake again (avoiding ignominious slips on the frosty path), the top of the mountain was covered in cloud in an otherwise clear sky.

We had to cross several streams swollen by recent rain on the way back, and at each one, stones had to be thrown (or barking occurred). Nevertheless, we managed to get back to the car just over 4 hours and 11km after we started. An enjoyable day.

Snore

“Rufus, Rufus, we’re home.”

Dramatic sigh

“We have to get out of the car now.”

“Huff”

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PB4Y 38753

Last year, Rufus and I visited the site of a crashed Lancaster on Garn Las. Today, Remembrance Sunday, we decided to visit another site we had discovered on our travels. On 24 August 1944, a US Navy Liberator bomber was on night exercise when it hit the top of Moel Feity. All the crew were killed. The crew were Lts Byrnes and Hobson Jr, Ens Manelski, ARM Shipe and AMMs Holt Jr and Keister. If any of their relatives are reading this, you should know that there are a number of poppies laid here during the year; people continue to remember. The weather may sometimes scatter them but the sacrifice these men made is not forgotten.

The site is remote. It’s not visible from the road or from any of the sheep tracks that skirt the top of the hill. The first time I went looking for the site was in heavy rain, and both Rufus and I got drenched without coming anywhere near it. The first time we found it, it was almost by accident. This time I had an idea where to look but I started to doubt my own direction sense. However, just as I was about to turn back to try and find it on the next hillock, the white stone appeared on the horizon.

It’s a beautiful setting on a fine morning, as it was this morning. It’s a poignant place, too because you can see how close the plane was to missing the top of the hill. I replaced the wreath on the little cairn, placed my own poppy, on a wooden cross, and stood for a few minutes. Rufus, as usual, was well behaved and didn’t complain as he usually does when I stop walking for any length of time.

Then it was on to the lake. The weather was wonderful this morning and although there was a cold wind now and again, the sun was strong and warm. Underfoot was a different matter, however, as all the recent rain had clearly collected on the route I was taking. Many times my boots disappeared completely under water and only the recent waterproofing I applied kept my feet dry. I tried to push the pace up the hillside towards the lake to try out my knee. Before long, Rufus, who had run ahead as usual, appeared on the crest of the hill to see where I was. He alternated between looking off into the distance and looking at me. That usually means he’s seen something he wants to go to but he knows I’ll probably tell him no. As I crested the hill, I saw that he was staring longingly at the lake. He’s learnt some hand signals while we’ve been walking, and when I waved him on, he shot off to the water’s edge.

We sat in the  heat of the sun at the lake shore and snacked. Rufus cooled his paws, I took photos and marveled at the weather. We set off around the edge of the lake and on towards the path up to Fan Brecheiniog. At 11am, I stood for a few minutes as part of the 2 minute silence. Rufus, unsure what was going on, reminded me that it was time to go and at 11.02, we went. It took us 21 minutes to climb from the lake to the ridge of Fan Brecheiniog. It always looks harder than it is and I’ve learnt to ignore my first impressions and just estimate the time it will take. It helps tackle the steep parts.

On top, we bumped into several walkers and dogs taking advantage of the lovely weather.  We made our way along the ridge with magnificent views in all directions. This is one of my favourite places in the Brecon Beacons. In the distance, the trophy summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du stuck out on the horizon and I still get a buzz getting to the top of Pen y Fan. But for me, the empty, isolated ridge of Fan Brecheiniog is so much better .

We walked out to the burial cairn on Fan Foel before reluctantly turning around and heading back. I’m still getting used to the walking pole and so coming down was slower than I would have liked. But it was definitely easier on the knees. At the bottom, Rufus was waiting for me at the lake shore and there were a few stones thrown and caught before we splashed and slurped our way across the boggy marsh and down to the river.

We skirted the side of Moel Feity, avoided horses and foals, splashed through fast flowing streams, got muddy and finally reached the car a little less that four hours after we’d left.

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Day of Reckoning

Yesterday, Rufus and I climbed Fan Brecheiniog. It’s one of my favourite mountains for a number of reasons; the views, the terrain, the airy ridge walk. It’s quiet, too. But yesterday was about testing my knee on a proper mountain, both up and down again. The steep final uphill sections were ideal for that. Going up was a test of fitness. Coming down checked out the strength of the knee itself.

The weather was pretty awful with heavy rain on the drive to the start of the walk, and drizzle when we set off. But then the sun tried to break through and I saw little breaks of blue sky.  When we started to climb up to the lake, we walked into cloud and more damp conditions. Underfoot, the ground was soaked by the recent heavy rain and everywhere there were new streams and rivulets forming waterfalls. Rufus was spoilt for choice over where to paddle.

At the lake, the mist swirled and cleared before blanketing us again as the wind took it. After a short stone throwing break, we started on the path up the side of the mountain. The rocks were slippery underfoot and the wind and rain started again. Not the most enjoyable time I’ve had climbing this route. Even Rufus, normally racing ahead, took it easy. I could feel my lack of fitness as we neared the top of the first bit. I was out of breath and ready for a rest. A minute or so took care of that and soon we were on our way again towards the second steep bit.

Although short, this bit is very steep and the rocks that form the path are always slippery. In the cold or wet, they become worse and today was no exception. There is usually a wind from the south east through the bwlch and that didn’t disappoint either. It took less that 5 minutes of careful footfall to get over the worst of the slope and to reach the welcome stone slabs that form the path to the summit and trig point. The mist was thick here and the wind blew heavy drizzle into our faces but we carried on (this makes us sound like Arctic adventurers – there is no comparison, of course). The trig point has recently been painted white so it was invisible in the mist until we nearly bumped into it.

We carried on northwards to the end of the ridge. There were no views this time but I wanted to get the extra distance in. With little more than a pause to get our bearings, we headed back along the ridge to the descents. I was using my walking pole this time and took it easy. I was very conscious of my knee but tried not to favour it – I wanted this to be a fair test. The first descent, slippery and steep, was over quickly and Rufus decided to leave me behind as I was clearly slowing him up. By the time I got to the second, longer descent he was no where to be seen and I spent a few anxious moments looking for him. He appeared over the crest of a low hill, charging towards me and wondering why I was making a fuss of him.

The second, longer descent was going to be the real tester, and I started off a little nervous of what would happen. As I went down, it became clear that my knee was fine; there was no pain and not even the burning sensation i sometimes get on descents.  Of course, the walking pole helped and I’ll be using this all the time now. But I was pleased that there were no unexpected creaks and groans from the joint.

By the time I’d got to the bottom of the path, Rufus was already at the lake waiting for stones to be thrown, so we spent 15 minutes of so splashing about in the water. Neither of us were going to get any wetter than we already were.  Then we headed down, out of the cloud and into the occasional drizzle as we followed the many new streams down to the young River Tawe, and eventually the car.

There was lots of snowing on the sofa as I watched TV that evening.

Today, we went for a shorter stroll on Cefn Bryn. The weather was completely different to yesterday and the sun was warm on the hillside was we wandered through the undergrowth. This was the second part of my knee test – how would it feel on the day after a mountain? The answer was fine! The slight ache that I woke up with soon disappeared as we walked along and although the going wasn’t as harsh and testing as yesterday, we still climbed the best part of 100m and walked more than 5km.

I think I’ll be booking the trek to climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow.

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Late start (by Rufus)

Dave was snoring during the night which was probably why I didn’t have a great night. It was warm, too and despite the windows being open, I found it difficult to get comfy. I expect my appointment with my hair stylist tomorrow will help with that. Anyway, I woke Dave at about 6.30 and then again at around 6.45 and 7am. He finally relented (after I’d climbed up to nudge him several times) at 7.30.

The garden was still there, and apart from several interesting scents (I’ve heard Dave mention a fox and there was a cat in the garden last night), all was present and correct. We breakfasted and then I decided to have a nap on the sofa. When I woke again, Dave was watching rubbish on the TV. He has a tendency to do that if I’m not careful and so I let him know that the garden needed patrolling again, and that we really ought to get out and have some exercise. (His tummy is comfy to lie on but not healthy for him).

He drove me out to the river and although it looked quite cloudy and miserable on the hills, I guessed we’d be heading for lower down today. Dave goes on about his knee but it seems okay to me. Nevertheless, he is taking it easy at the moment. We walked along the river for a while and I was very pleased to see that he has learnt to throw stones quite skilfully now.  He still has the habit of stopping to take photos but I can usually  tell when that is going to happen, and if he gets too carried away I let him know by standing in front of the camera.

We left the river and headed along an old sheep trail that climbed up the side of the hill. Not ideal, as we were moving away from the water, but I could see the river down below, so we were never going to be too far away. The sheep scattered. They don’t like me and quite frankly, I don’t like them as they get in the way and make silly noises. The path was narrow and slippery at points, especially when we were walking over rocks. There was some mud too, but I was careful to avoid that. I don’t like the idea of a shower when we get home.

Eventually, we got to the top of the hill and it was flat going. Dave sped up and once I’d spotted a small stream, so did I. I got there first (I usually do) and was waiting for him for ages. I stood by a waterfall, as I knew he’d get distracted by it and would forget to throw stones for me. But he was very good and remembered. In fact, he was so into throwing stones for me that he didn’t see his camera and tripod fall over, and I had to point it out to him with one of my best stares. He was very good and didn’t swear.

We alternated between stone throwing and picture taking, which is by far the best way to do it. I didn’t have to remind him too often; he is learning fast. We could have stayed there all day (if he’s brought food with him) but before long the clouds started to gather and it looked like we were going to get soaked. So we both decided the best move was to head back towards the car. As we left the stream, the clouds were coming down so where we had been was quickly hidden by mist. It reminded me of yesterday, when I’m sure Dave got lost again.

We stayed out of the mist by descending, fortunately right down to the main river, where Dave sat to rest his weary bones (so he calls them) while he threw stones for me to chase and catch. Then we made our way back to the car, where I let Dave drive while I dozed in the back. I must have done loads as he had to wake me up when we got to the house!

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Dodging the rain

Dave:  A day off! Wake up late. Well, wake up at the usual time because it’s become a habit. Then doze and have strange dreams about being lost in the car park of a fictional out of town shopping centre. Then get up late. Breakfast. Grab a camera and head off to call for Rufus so we can explore the river before the rain comes. The weather forecast said we had until about 12.30.

Rufus: I am told Dave is coming over this morning. I’m trying to remain cool but it’s hard to concentrate on things like breakfast when I know I will have the responsibility of making sure he doesn’t fall in the water or make a fool of himself some other way.

Dave: The traffic isn’t as bad as I expected until I hit the lane, when it becomes like a London street. Nevertheless, I make it on time to avoid disappointing Rufus.

Rufus: Dave is all excited when he arrives, and to make him feel at home, I make a fuss of him. Then he starts gossiping with my house mate, and fussing over the cat. I start to push him towards the door. He’s quite heavy since he’s stopped taking me for long walks, so it’s hard work. Eventually, I get him to the door. We leave. He’s parked the car miles from the house and it’s raining, so we get wet. I don’t care, I plan to get soaked before the morning is out. 

Dave: The rain is quite heavy as we drive to the river, although the forecast says it will stop soon. In the distance, I can see the clouds getting brighter, which means they are thinning. There is hope. We park up by the side of the road and, with Rufus’ sighs reminding me I’m too slow in getting out of the car, I unleash him on the river.

Rufus: As Dave gets older, he gets slower. It’s sad but a fact of life. We were wasting precious paddling time while he tried to remember where he was and what he was doing. I tried politely to remind him.  

Dave: Rufus was in the water before I could close the door. As I walked along the riverbank, he waded along the middle of the river. After a few minutes the rain stopped and the sun came out. There was even a bit of blue sky peeping through the cloud cover. Although I wasn’t there to take photos, I couldn’t help but snap a few shots. I crossed the river and made my way up the other side to the stone circle. Rufus had a sniff around and made sure he featured in a few of my snaps.

Rufus: I had to stifle a laugh as I watched Dave try to cross the river. He tip-toed, wobbled, slipped and finally scrambled across. But he kept throwing stones for me so I did make an effort not to tease him. On the hill there were a lot of little stones arranged in a circle and they all needed investigating but Dave seemed to a little frustrated and didn’t want to take my portrait.

Dave: We made our way up the hill a little before joining a sheep trail and walking above the river. Sheep parted as we progressed and Rufus was well behaved; they didn’t distract him from his mission to find more water. It may have been because they were sprayed various bright colours. I’d seen this before on the mountain. Red (although it faded to pink) green and blue sheep all mixed up and spread across the slopes. Today we only saw pink sheep.

Rufus: The sheep were all different psychedelic colours, man. I wonder what was in the treats Dave gave me? I tried to ignore them but they were everywhere. In the end I pretended I hadn’t seen them and concentrated on finding the river.

Dave: Rufus weaved and wandered as we made our way along the path., But then he spotted a dip in the ground, quite far ahead. He immediately recognised it as the course of the river. although no water was visible. Without hesitating, he ran off towards it. It took me five minutes to walk to the river, during which time he’d popped his head up to make sure I was following.

Rufus: I’ve been studying geography recently and can now spot the signs of rivers and streams quite easily. I led the way so Dave knew where we needed to go to find stones, but as usual he was slow so I checked up on him to see that he wasn’t lost. 

Dave: We walked on a little, following the river up to a couple of pools where I knew Rufus would be able to swim. Sure enough, with a little encouragement, he paddled, bobbed and was swimming around.

Rufus: The river was a welcome sight as I needed to cool my paws. And then I got to have a dip and a swim. Nothing beats wild swimming on a warm Autumn afternoon.

Dave: We made our way back to the car by following the river all the way. Rufus only left the water to deposit stones on the riverbank before immediately heading back into the river. I threw some little stones for Rufus to catch, which he is getting good at now. But the ones he liked best were the ones he could find and bring back out of the water. We found another long stretch of deep water and he spent a few minutes swimming lengths for the sheer joy – no stones were involved.

Rufus: I like the challenge of finding a route through water. I like to give Dave something to occupy him so I make a big fuss of catching stones he throws, even if some of them go a little off target. But then we found a big pool and I had a swim back and forth to get the cobwebs out of the muscles. And t was a nice way to wash off the dirt of the walk.

Dave: In the car, Rufus cleaned himself then settled back for a snooze.

Rufus: You never know who you’re going to meet so I think it pays to look good at all times. When Dave drives, it’s boring unless he has to stop suddenly, so I tend to doze.

Dave: Rufus is staying over this evening so when we got home, we had brunch and settled down to dry off and watch a movie on the TV.

Rufus: Dave’s lap is an efficient means to dry my fur.

Dave: I think there’ll be another early morning tomorrow.

Rufus: You think? I know!

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Take it easy

Day off today and while I would normally be out on a walk somewhere, even if I wasn’t actively training, I can’t at the moment because of my swelling!

Ha! That got your attention. Don’t try to back out of it now, you’re reading because you want to know what my swelling is. Unless you’ve been following the blog, when you’d know that it’s my bursa. Stop giggling at the back. Too much activity and my bursa swells up. I said STOP GIGGLING!

On a serious note, I have gone from a high level of exercise to next to nothing in the space of a week. On one level, that means I have to drastically adjust my diet, because I was eating to fuel the exercise and if I continue that diet, I’ll be adding weight in all the wrong places. So I have to find some other way of exercising and I’ve picked on weights at home as my calorie consumer of choice. That and a reduction in portion size.

On another level there’s the mental change. I’d been building up to the challenge in my mind too. It was about attitude – getting up early on a rainy morning to go on the hills, going out after work, selecting routes that ended on an ascent, going the extra mile. That’s gone and I have to try and find a substitute goal to keep me occupied or I risk making an even bigger dent in the sofa.

The third level is the spare energy I have right now. Although this will diminish as my body adjusts, right now I feel I want to go charging off and doing stuff. I don’t even know what. It’s hard not to overdo things. Last night I cut the lawn then went out to Broadpool. I couldn’t just sit still.

I went out to the River Tawe with Rufus this morning. I was careful not to go too far or do any climbing, but it was hard looking up at Fan Brecheiniog where I’ve been doing a lot of my training and knowing it was out of bounds for a long while. Grrr.

Grrr, was also the noise Rufus made when I picked up the first stone. It was closely followed by a bark and then several more barks. As fats as I could throw the stones into the water, Rufus was bringing them out again. The banks of the Tawe, just above the twin waterfall, are lined with stones now. These days, dredging stones is not enough. I have to carefully select smaller stones to throw for Rufus to catch. He’s very good at it now and I love watching the absolute concentration on his face as he waits for the stone to be thrown. One good thing about throwing stones for Rufus is that i can sit down to do it, and I took advantage of this to rest the knee.

We were following wagtails along the river. they hopped from rock to rock, just keeping ahead of Rufus as he splashed and waded along the riverbed. It was like a game to them and once they realised Rufus wasn’t interested, they started playing it with me. I’m sure they knew I was trying to get a photograph; they’d wait until I’d stopped and raised the camera to my eye before flying away again.

Back home, I can feel my knee aching, which means I’ve probably done a little too much, so as I sit and type this, I have the ice pack on again.

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4½ hours

Having taken it easy all week, it was time to get back out on to the hills. Housemaid’s Knee or no, I have to get back on track with the training as the weeks are counting down fast. It’s around 8 weeks to the start of my attempt to climb Kilimanjaro. Check out my just giving page and add a little to the total for Cancer Research.

Yesterday, Rufus and I went for a stroll down by the river. I wanted to give my knee a try out before tackling a long distance hike, so we headed off to the river and Moel Feity – a small hill just to the north of it. We’ve done Moel Feity before, as apart of the Three Summits walk we did a while back. This time, it was my goal and we took out time getting there.  I haven’t seen Rufus for a while and he was obviously happy to be out and about. He kept stopping to wait for me on the track as we walked along. At the top of the hill, we had a play fight and a snack. And then another play fight.

We headed down the slope and as soon as Rufus spotted the river, he was off. Every now and then I saw a little black dot bounding through the tufts of grass or sheep bolting in either direction. But Rufus was intent only on getting to the water and sheep were not on his radar. By the time I joined him,  he was ankle deep in the stream, waiting patiently for me to start throwing stones in. The next 30 minutes or so was taken up with slowly making our way along the river, dredging or catching stones. Then, reluctantly, we had to turn away from the river to head back to the car.

Today, Rufus didn’t join me as the longer distances put a lot of strain on his paws. He tends to go at 110% all the time and is not the best at pacing, a bit like me!

At this stage I’m meant to be doing between 5 and 6 hours of walking, with plenty of ascent and descent and all the gear. As you may gather from the title, I didn’t quite get there.  But it wasn’t from lack of trying. One of my problems in the past has been going off too fast (typical bloke) so part of the training has been trying to get into the habit of maintaining a realistic pace that lets me walk without having to take too many breaks. So I got the pace right today, but the route was just too short. It was the same route as two weeks ago as I wanted to make sure my knee was okay and I knew I could turn back at any time.  But I had the option of an extra stretch at the end which I thought might do the trick.  It wasn’t enough, and the path dropped steeply after that which would have put too much strain on the knee.

I started out in the dry but by the time I’d climbed to the ridge, I could see the rain clouds coming in from the west. I watched one dark one closing, the rain visible beneath it, and all I could do was wait for the inevitable soaking. Which was cold and wet and uncomfortable. But it was over quickly and I carried on under blue sky and drying hot sun. It rained several more times during the outward part of the hike but the sun quickly dried me off again. Sitting on the edge of the hill at Fan Foel, I watched a heavy storm make it’s way towards Sennybridge to the north. I tucked in to my corned beef pasty in the sunshine.

I could see more clouds forming in the west and they looked as if they were heading for me so I turned around and headed back along the ridge. Sure enough, I’d just dropped down in the cwm between Fan Brechioniog and Fan Hir, the heavy rain started. I was a little concerned that it might be a thunder storm as the cloud was dark and the rain drops large. Then I started to get pelted with hail stones. They stung my face and hands and I turned my back to them. I waited for a few minutes for the storm to pass and was rewarded by seeing the line of hail sweep over me, I watched the storm cross the valley and over the next hill. I was drenched, but the sun and wind dried me off as I started on the final part of the walk.

The down hill part was the bit the doctor said had caused my knee problems, so I’d brought along a walking pole and I was relying on it to take a lot of the impact on the joints. Sure enough, although I was slower going down, the burning sensation from the last time I descended here did flare up and I got to the bottom feeling pretty good. Then it was an easy walk alongside the river and back to the car.

Now all I have to do is figure out a longer route.

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